The reopening of borders, the relaxation of access conditions, the resumption of Operation Crossing the Strait after a two-year suspension and the emergency spending plan approved in extremis by Aziz Akhannouch's government have barely managed to sustain Morocco's depleted tourism sector, which suffered first-hand the effects of COVID-19.
Tourism accounts for 7% of Morocco's national GDP. For this reason, the Moroccan government is seeking to bring the sector back to the revenue and tourist figures it recorded before the pandemic.
The Minister of Tourism assured that the plan was on the right track. Speaking in the House of Representatives, Fatima-Zahra Ammor announced that Morocco had recovered 84% of the volume of foreign tourists who visited the country four years ago. According to official data, the Maghreb country received almost 11 million people between the months of January and November 2022, despite the border closures that marked the first five weeks of the year, for the almost 13 million tourists in 2019.
Ammor also acknowledged that the executive hopes to "increase the number of tourists to 26 million by 2030". A huge challenge for a sector that has grown at an annual rate of 5.5% in the last two decades.
The figures contrast with those collected by other economies, which barely exceed 65%. The pro-government media attribute the success to the emergency plan approved in January last year. The measure unblocked an economic stimulus for the tourism sector of 2 billion dirhams, or 18 million euros. "Half of this sum has been devoted to improving hotel infrastructures so that tourists staying in Morocco are welcomed in the best conditions," Ammor explained from the legislative headquarters.
The minister took stock of the recovery of the Moroccan tourism sector and showed the optimism of the cabinet regarding the volume of investments they hope to attract in the coming months.
The head of the tourism portfolio, an old acquaintance of Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, with whom she has shared several professional projects in the private sector, announced that they expect an injection of 27 billion dirhams over the next three years, some 2 billion euros. To put it in perspective, in 2022, Morocco's tourism sector received a total investment of 8.5 billion dirhams.
It will be the big challenge for Ammor, who succeeded Nadia Fettah Alaoui in October 2021. The pandemic had exposed the weakness of the sector, particularly its heavy dependence on foreign tourism. And Akhannouch recruited her to reform tourism, Morocco's key economic engine, which plays a crucial role in supporting the kingdom's hard currency economy and creating jobs, especially for young people. The implications go beyond its contribution to GDP.
"We must make an average progression of more than 30% in 2023 compared to 2022 to reach the same level as in 2019. This is possible, but difficult. In particular, during the first 4 months of 2023, there will be mainly a catch-up effect, as the air borders remained closed until 6 February 2022 and maritime connections were not resumed until mid-April, but with restrictive access conditions until mid-May," stresses the director of the provincial council of Tourism of Ouarzazate, Zoubir Bouhoute in the digital Le Quottidien.